Nestled within the great town of Morristown is Morris County’s hidden gem: The Morris Museum. This medium- sized kid-friendly museum has undergone a huge transformation over the last few years and has become one of my family’s favorite destinations, combining art, culture and interactive exhibits. We experienced “one great day” at the Morris Museum on the Morris County free museum day.
Upon entering the museum my kids were instantly lured by the gift shop located in the main foyer, but we were able to pry them away with the promise of seeing some cool dinosaur bones in the new exhibit upstairs (YAY for dinosaurs saving the day!). Thankfully, all three of my kids loved the new dinosaur gallery. I was impressed as well, because even though it was a small space, it was set up wonderfully. There were interactive portions too, such as sitting in a dinosaur nest, buttons to press for dinosaur sounds (a big hit with the kids obviously, as well as the makers of Advil) and an actual t-rex skull at eye level for the kids to get a close up view!
The rest of the upper level has Native American pieces and other art and photography, which of course the kids usually buzz through on the way to their second favorite spot – The Train Room. Although it could use some better ventilation or non-heat producing lights, this cozy gallery showcases a fantastic model train set and village that will fascinate both kids and adults. There are stools for the kids to get a better view of all the tiny details, as well as benches for the parents to sleep (I mean sit). Younger kids will enjoy playing with the wooden train set while listening to the older kids (like mine) repeatedly pushing down the pump train whistle.
The lower level has some great galleries as well: gems and rocks (including a glow in the dark room to see the fluorescent rocks – another huge hit with my kids especially when they are wearing light colors!), the classic “stuffed” animal gallery (slightly gross yet still impressive to see a bear up close), other art, photography and cultural exhibits.
By far, my kids' favorite exhibit is the permanent Murtogh D. Guinness Collection that features more than 150 pieces of historic mechanical musical instruments and automata (mechanical figures) as well as other programmed media, ranging from player piano rolls to pinned cylinders. We’ve been coming here since it opened in 2007 and my kids still have not lost interest, as there is so much to see and do in this stylish and impressive exhibit. There is even a whole room dedicated to kids’ exploration where my kids played for almost an hour. They made music on something other than iTunes by punching holes in a paper to produce a song and composing music on a pinned cylinder. There is also a live demonstration of some of the collection daily at 2pm.
We were fortunate to be at the museum for the opening weekend of their new exhibit “Jersey Rocks: A History of Rock & Roll in the Garden State” which showcased rock memorabilia from New Jersey. I would have loved to take a closer look at more of the items however by this time the kids were running low on patience. Thankfully there was an area for them to pretend play and pose on a concert stage with instruments (a very cute photo op for the parents). I particularly enjoyed the journal where visitors wrote about their first concert experiences. I’m putting it out there that (sadly) mine was Menudo, but it was quickly followed by Cheap Trick and Powerstation. My eight year old daughter had fun writing about Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner and of course the Wiggles.
By this time, my kids were ready for food and we had our packed snacks at the tables in the foyer. All was most certainly right in the world, as we were able to get some culture into them without the hassle of getting into NYC.
In addition the museum has the separate Bickford Theater where kid friendly shows are presented throughout the year (for an additional fee) as well as many plays, musicals and concerts for the adults.
Check out the Morris Museum during one of their many family events such as Science Saturdays, arts & crafts events, or special festival days like Chocolate Fest or Fall Fest when there are additional programs for the kids with your admission price.
The Morris Museum is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 11am to 5pm, Thursdays 11am to 8pm and Sundays 1pm to 5pm. The Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays (and closed Sunday, July 17, 2011 for a private event.) Adults/$10, Children and Seniors/$7, Children under 3 are free. The Morris Museum is FREE on every second and third Thursday evening of the month from 4pm to 8pm. Call 973-971-3700 for more information.